Don’t look outside of yourself to understand and source leadership and power, look within. Every one of us is a leader when we tap into the inner sovereignty of our unique configuration of beauty and power. To be a leader is to take full ownership for your best qualities and abilities, and gift them to the greater world through your presence and actions.
As a young woman, I was hungry for power and influence. From my middle school years onward, I was a consummate leader. My siblings, school mates and later my co-workers would most likely have told you I was bossy, competitive and a compulsive overachiever, but my mother knew different.
She sensed I was a gifted, high energy person adapting to the cultural options available to me for power and leadership. She steered me into a business education and corporate career, and couldn’t have been prouder when I graduated top of my MBA class and lined myself up for a prestigious consulting career.
Pivotal events conspired to rewire my understanding of power and leadership: the lightning flash of insight that my material, achievement-driven life was bereft of soul; my refusal to follow a career that required me to operate as a man in my woman’s body; and waking up to the mean-spirited, abusive underbelly of my culturally inherited, hierarchical model of leadership.
In this leadership model, leaders stand out from the crowd by being better or more than their competition: more brainy, more skilled, more charismatic, more influential, more connected, more aggressive, more of whatever attributes are lauded in a particular environment. Power is to be hoarded and shared among the limited, most worthy few.
There is no separation between out there and inside. What repulses and attracts you in the public sphere offers key insights into the passions, fears, experiences and world issues that drive your inner process and outer actions. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the individuals you have chosen as your personal heroes and demons.
The public stage offers up a plethora of demons and heroes. These are the larger-than-life characters — politicians, athletes, entertainers, spiritual teachers, philanthropists, and others kinds of leaders and role models — that draw our attention and elicit our revulsion and adoration.
These individuals help us make sense of the world. We divide them into camps of good and bad, worthy and deplorable, and draw insights and lessons from their words and behaviors. Yet these people are typically strangers to us. We project meaning and story onto them, without truly knowing their characters, motivations and personal experiences.
Therein lies the gift for your personal growth and pathwork: the meaning and story that you layer onto your heroes and demons contain a wealth of personal insights; they are an outer mirror of your inner landscape.Exploring Your Personal Heroes and Demons
In this exercise, you are invited to explore your heroes and demons as a means of engaging your inner landscape, including the bigger story, themes and issues of your personal pathwork.
1. Pick a personal hero and demon to be the focus of your pathwork.
Choose individuals, current or historic, that you don’t know but that you greatly admire or loath. Go with whoever first pops into your mind or someone who has long been one of your demons or heroes.
The media feeds us an ongoing narrative of the horrors of humanity: terrorism, political corruption, environmental devastation, mass shootings, to name but a few. Yet our lives are also touched by acts of philanthropy, creative expression and everyday goodness by the bright-souled, golden-hearted people in our midst. Between these polarities, we are left disoriented, torn between repulsion and reverence for these base aspects of our human nature.
Who are we as a species? Are we beauty or are we beast? Does fear or love drive us? What rules our world and our lives – an ethos of domination and destruction, or of nurturance and creation? And what do we make with our pain? Beauty and goodness, or more horror and pain?
I want to reach out and touch your heart. To feel your warm flesh and pulse under my palm. I want to tell you everything is going to be okay. That we can figure this out, we can find our way through the madness and destruction that dominate the headlines, and align ourselves with those that come into this world to spread goodness and beauty.
But I can’t. Because we live in a turning moment, a time of choice between all that we are and all that we can be.
Individually and collectively, we need to stop being afraid, stop judging and stop insulating ourselves from the raw truths of our joy and our pain. And hardest of all, we need to accept that the horrors the media feeds us and the beauty that touches our everyday lives are both expressions of our inner humanity.
In this acceptance, you can come to understand that you are not separate from the beastly and the beauty out there in the greater world. Your life story is woven from the best and worst of your personal history and makeup. And you, like every one of us, were born into and entrained within a collective ethos that produces terrorists, mass murders, poets and philanthropists.
What do you do with your personal pain? What do you do with your gifts and opportunities? Do you make more sorrow and pain for yourself and others? Or do you allow life to teach you, and help you blossom and grow into your true, big, shining self.
It all comes down to the imperative of choice making. In the face of the suffering and joy, and light and shadow of your life story, what do you choose?
Photo Credit: James Marcom on Unsplash
Our breath, though we ignore it most of the time, is something we are intimately familiar with. It is an innate, natural part of our human functioning that we could no more suppress than we could stop the rising and setting of the sun.
Every moment of our life is a gift from its life-giving powers. We come into a life on a breath, and leave it on a breath, and mark every moment in between by its rhythmic cycles.
Breath is the dance of our inner world with the outer world. In-breath: we enter deep inside ourselves. Out-breath: we share what is inside with the world. Return in-breath: we draw the world back into our body and let it feed and change us.
Most of us have lost the true capacity of our breath. We breathe in a shallow, truncated form, neither fully filling our bodies, nor fully emptying them. We ride the crest of our breath, rather than the deep and wide range of its powers and mysteries.
Yet what is lost can be regained. We can learn, through conscious awareness and specific techniques, to breath in the manner our bodies and beings where designed to function.
And when we do, our bodies are enriched and our conscious awareness expands, because breath is the bridge between the physical and the spiritual, where mysteries unseen are made manifest in our living forms.
Read the above once more, but now apply these same words to magic.
Breath is magic. And magic is breath.
Photo Credit: Miguel Salgado on Unsplash
Photo Credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash